The two teams are fully manned and all eight bowlers are now set to get the 14th Weber Cup up and running, the colonials, of course, betting their socks that they will be the ones standing atop the podium on Sunday.
As aforementioned, the American line-up is the trusted quartet of Chris Barnes, Tommy Jones, Mike Fagan and Bill O’Neill, champions in 2011 and 2012 and now looking for the hat-trick.
Europe have a change in their batting order, promoting Mika Koivuniemi from Finland to the captaincy, the office previously held by Osku Palermaa, and adding Martin Larsen of Sweden to the roster. Last year’s Dominic Barrett and Stuart Williams, both from England, complete the foursome.
“We are just getting a feel for the lanes,” Barnes told us. “We have the same squad as last year where we had a lot of success, especially at the end. I am sure that the Europeans have other plans this year. It was 7-7 for a while last year, but we won the last ten. We’d like to do a bit more at the beginning this time. not wait until near the end to get going. Our team gets better as the weekend goes on. Our aim is to get off to a good start. 3-3 is great, 4-2 a little better. anything better than that is just icing.”
Rookie European captain Koivuniemi commented; “Being captain is a big responsibility, but I think I am ready for that. I was surprised to hear that Osku (Palermaa) is not on the team this year. We need to throw good shots when we need good shots. Most of the games are decided by one or two shots and we need to be at our best those times.”
Sweden’s Martin Larsen said: “Of course it is a big honor to be back on the European team and I hope I can do well. Those Americans are pretty tough to beat, that’s for sure, but we can beat them. The last time I was on the team it was up and down. A 170 was followed by a 290 and after that I won a couple of matches and lost some. It was OK. I love the format and here it is always house full.”
Competition in this opening session will be a Baker team opener followed by five singles matches, the final of which will be the infamous ‘Captains’ Pick’, the subject of much controversy over the past couple of years.
Battle commences at 19:00 BST, 14:00 EST in the United States. Fingers crossed as we hope to have frame-by-frame live scoring throughout the three days.
BAKER TEAM: Order of play for Europe: Koivuniemi, Barrett, Larsen, Williams. USA: Fagan, Jones, O’Neill, Barnes.
An open frame with a baby split in the second frame saw the colonials with a disadvantage and despite a surge of strikes they never caught the ‘home team’.
POINTS: USA – 1; EUROPE – 1
Oh what an opening, oh what a show. A superb opening to the 14th Weber Cup with Europe having a rare win in the Baker team event and then the wonder of Chris Barnes posting a perfect game, joining Tommy Jones and Paul Moor in the 300 Club, Jones a triple member.
Now, don’t get the idea that this lane at the Barnsley Metrodome is a cake walk. It is tough under the TV lights and the packed crowd almost spilling onto the lane. These are elite players who can handle these conditions but this opening is unique.
Next up for the second Singles is new captain Mika Koivuniemi of Finland against America’s Tommy Jones, two entirely different techniques with the same goal in mind.
Two perfect games from Team USA in the only two singles matches that have been played so far tonight. Is this a record? Well, it certainly is and to add to that Tommy (Mr 300) Jones has now cut four notches on his bow.
Next up for Team USA is Mike Fagan, star of the British Vogue Fashion Show at All Star Lanes in Manchester last night, uniquely bowling as models strutted up and down adjacent lanes. He faces Sweden’s Martin Larsen in the third singles match of the night. will we see another 300? Odds are against that, but the oddes were very much against seeing two 300s in the opening matches, so watch this space.
POINTS: USA – 2; EUROPE – 1
A two pin match through to the ninth frame and then Mike Fagan wrecked all hopes of Larsen pulling a victory out of the hat by striking out in the tenth frame to shut out the tall, lithe Swede.
No perfect games this time and the points now 3-1 in America’s favor it is up to Stuart Williams to stem the tide and bring Europe back into the fray as he takes on Bill O’Neill. “I am going to bowl as close to a 300 as I can and hope I win,” says the American.
POINTS: USA – 3; EUROPE – 1.
The Americans still ride on the crest of the wave through the singles matches, now posting their fourth consecutive victory to lead 4-1 in the overall standings. It has been normal service resumed with the scoring with an assortment of strikes, spares and splits, so different than the opening games where we were treated to such delight.
We go into the final match of the night with ‘Captains’ Pick’ as Mika |Koivuniemi will choose one of the americans and Chris Barnes a European to playfor a further point.
POINTS: USA – 4; EUROPE – 1
Well, well. Wonders never cease. We had two perfectos in the opening singles games and in this Captains’ Pick Mika Koivuniemi treated us to a 7-10 split conversion, just to add to the excitement of the evening. Good as that was, it was not enough to save him from yet another defeat and the Americans have a four point advantage going into tomorrow’s second session.
Can the Europeans make a comeback in the upcoming team, doubles and singles? They will certainly give it their best.
POINTS: USA – 5; EUROPE – 1.
For further information contact Keith Hale: firstname.lastname@example.org.